I’ve taken a break from all things Big Séance due to my move and cleaning (and scrubbing… and cleaning… and cleaning), unpacking and organizing. I never planned to take this time off, but it has taken much longer than I thought it would, and I’ve used up a lot more energy than I originally planned. But I’m excited to get this new and improved “studio” up and running. I hope to be back with a new episode very soon! And can you believe I’m already getting excited to plan for fall???
While you’re waiting, have you caught up with all episodes of the podcast in the archives?
Inspired by recent conversations that I’ve had with psychics Carole J. Obley and Angela Thomas, I decided to dust off my Tarot cards and try something different for my 400th post here at The Big Séance. I am certainly not a Tarot reader, and I haven’t had the cards out in over a year, but I feel like I was led to get them out and incorporate them into this post. In fact, I was led out of bed at 1am to do it.
Here’s how it works. If you’re not familiar with the Tarot, a 3 card spread is one of many spreads that readers use. Many of them involve more than 3 cards, and some of them are quite complicated. There are even different ways to do a 3 card spread. My intention was to see what the cards had to say about the past (card on the left), present (card in the center), and the future (card on the right) of BigSeance.com and the Big Séance Podcast.
After a very quick meditation and sending my question (Big Séance’s past, present, and future) out to the universe, I shuffled and pulled my 3 cards. I’m not going to lie, I was a little concerned with the second and third cards. I know, I know, I know… I’m not supposed to see the violent image of the tower and the naturally scary image of the Devil and immediately think I’m in trouble. But I immediately thought, Whoa. Was this a mistake? Is The Big Séance screwed? Should I just re-draw and no one needs to know? Is this something bad? Well I reached out to Angela Thomas, who works with the Tarot regularly and even has a new book coming out on the topic, and she was quick to remind me that there are both positive and negative things associated with these cards. And so I have decided to bravely share the cards that I pulled and continue on with the idea of this 400th post!
Angela Thomas reads and interprets my 3 cards!
Psychic, Angela Thomas
Angela, who is actually the next guest on an upcoming episode of the podcast, was kind enough to give me a thorough reading, based on the three cards that I pulled above. First of all, I was immediately relieved to find that the reading seemed overwhelmingly positive, considering the imagery on the cards (which, once again, can symbolize positive or negative). With that being said, I have decided not to include this reading here, partly because some of it is personal, partly because I’m still processing some of it, and also because there may be some exciting things happening in the future, and I wouldn’t want to share that now. One thing I can tell you is that I was floored with several major hits and validations in the reading already. I want to thank Angela for sharing her time and gift for me. Stay tuned for more on Angela, but you can find her at AngelaThomas.org.
How would YOU read these cards?
What are your thoughts? How would you read these cards? Are you an experienced Tarot reader? Maybe you’re just learning and trying it out? It doesn’t matter. This could be a very interesting discussion. Clearly I’d prefer that these cards were interpreted positively, but I want this to be an honest exercise with honest feedback and readings.
James Randi, state magician and skeptic. By Terabyte at de.wikipedia [CC BY-SA 2.0 de (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/de/deed.en), GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html) or CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/)], from Wikimedia Commons
We had some very serious discussion here a few years ago after I wrote about the thoughts and opinions of skeptic Sharon Hill, inHow Does the Skeptic View Paranormal Folk?It was truly eye-opening for me.This led to a great response by Randall Keller, titledUninformed and Misledat The Voices Blog. After all of the hurt feelings that I think it’s safe to say that many of us had, I’ve actually found myself occasionally following Sharon’s writings and videos. I certainly don’t agree with all of her opinions, but there’s always that awkward moment where the skeptic side of me (the same skeptic side that I frequently rant about… the one that really ticks me off!) can appreciate the suggestion that I think about some things differently. With that being said… I still occasionally get my feelings hurt. It’s a strange and bi-polar relationship that I have with my skeptical side, and the two of us are still working things out. I’m actually considering reaching out to Sharon about a guest appearance on the podcast. We’ll see how brave I get. Good idea? Bad idea? What do you think?
James ‘The Amazing’ Randi is a stage magician who says he has a million dollars for anyone who can convince him they have psychic powers. No one has even come close to winning, proof, say sceptical scientists, that there is no such thing as ‘the paranormal’. But are they right? In this illuminating and often provocative analysis, Robert McLuhan examines the influence of Randi and other debunking sceptics in shaping scientific opinion about such things as telepathy, psychics, ghosts and near-death experiences. He points out that scientific researchers who investigate these things at first hand overwhelmingly consider them to be genuinely anomalous. But this has shocking implications, for science, for society and for even perhaps for ourselves as individuals. Hence the sceptics’ insistence that they should rather be attributed to fraud, imagination and wishful thinking. However, this extraordinary and little understood aspect of consciousness has much to tell us about the human situation, McLuhan suggests. And at a time when militants are polarising the debate about religion, its mystical, spiritual element offers an optimistic and enlightened way forward. Randi’s Prize is aimed at anyone interested in spirituality or those curious to know the truth about paranormal claims. It’s an intelligent and readable analysis of scientific research into the paranormal which, uniquely, also closely examines the arguments of well-known sceptics.
I’ve got a couple of books in line ahead of this one, but I’ll keep you posted. Has anyone out there read it?
Meril (pronounced just like Ms. Streep pronounces her name), our four-legged son (center), his cousin (left), and auntie (right), wish everyone a happy and cozy New Year! (For anyone wondering, the cute pajamas were purchased by Meril’s Grandma at both BaxterBoo.com and PetSupplies.com.)
I just LOVE the end-of-the-year WordPress Stats Report!! It has been a big year here at BigSeance.com. In June, I launched The Big Séance Podcast, which has been a big addition to my life. A lot of the energy that went into blog posts before, has been consumed by the podcast, which continues to grow and get great feedback! In 2015 I hope to be more consistent with both the blog and podcast, and I hope to bring you the best content yet! Thanks for all the support, especially to those fabulous bloggers mentioned below! See you in 2015!
Madison Square Garden can seat 20,000 people for a concert. This blog was viewed about 66,000 times in 2014. If it were a concert at Madison Square Garden, it would take about 3 sold-out performances for that many people to see it.
Some of the Prophecies and predictions of Edgar Cayce and Sylvia Browne.
Janice Carlson – Janice has been a lovely friend and supporter of the podcast. You can hear my interview with her if you go to episode 10 from August 27, 2014. I wanted to start our special predictions episode with Janice today, because this was actually all her idea… and I thought it was brilliant! For more on Janice, visitjanicecarlson.com.
Janice gives us her psychic predictions for 2015.
Angela Thomas – Next up is a psychic named Angela Thomas. She is a research psychic for the study of precognition with Dr. Vernon Neppe. She’s been a guest of George Noory’s Beyond Belief on Gaiam TV, and in the spring of 2015, she’ll be publishing her book “Three Dimensional Tarot: The Art of Gathering Information”. You can find more about Angela atAngelaThomas.org.
Angela gives her psychic predictions for the next 18 months.
Rob joins us today to tell us how we all have the ability to have premonitions, and he shares a very touching story about one of his own premonitions.
Carole J. Obley – A future guest of an upcoming episode of The Big Séance Podcast, Carole has been the bridge between heaven and earth in over 7,000 group and individual readings. It’s no surprise that she is fast becoming a sought-after medium, author, workshop leader and speaker given the startling clarity, specificity and accuracy with which she sees, hears and senses people’s loved ones in spirit. Names, descriptions of loved ones’ personalities and uncanny, validating details as well as grief support and teachings about the Afterlife are typically delivered in her readings. Heartfelt and compassionate in her approach, Carole is also well-known for her practical, down-to-earth guidance and insight into life issues, such as relationships, career and finance. Fore more on private sessions, visitsoulvisions.net.
Carole shares the message that coming in 2015, we will have a deeper awareness of humanity and unity.
Karen shares some predictions for the year 2015 that she received from one of her spirit friends known as “The Moon”, and she received these predictions from the Ouija board.
Our last two contributions stand out, because they are channeled messages that are recorded as they’re happening. Both Lee Allen Howard and Marilyn Painter have been guests on the podcast, and I’m glad to have them back.
Lee gives his 2015 psychic predictions, but also leaves us with the recording of him channeling a message that he received from a “watcher” that he talks about onbuilding-the-bridge.com. He received this on November 24, 2014 during a channeling session.
Marilyn also shares a recording of her channeling the energies of 2015.
I hope you enjoyed this episode, and I would absolutely LOVE to hear from you if you have any thoughts about any of the messages you heard today. I’m sure all of these folks would love to hear about any validation if you notice anything lining up as they predicted. I hope to hear from you!
Happy New Year! Have a GREAT 2015!
The Big Séance Podcast can be found right here, oniTunes, and onStitcher. Please subscribe, submit a rating, or share with a fellow paranerd! Do you have any comments or feedback? Please contact me atPatrick@BigSeance.com. Consider recording your voice feedback directly from your device on mySpeakPipe page! You can also call the show and leave feedback at (775) 583-5563 (or 7755-TELL-ME). I would love to include your voice feedback in a future show. The candles are already lit, so come on in and join the séance!
So I had a wonderful Thanksgiving break, which also included a little break from blogging and podcasting. If anyone out there has just been super distraught over not having any Big Séance in your life over the last week, I do sincerely apologize. For the rest of you, I hope you enjoyed your break from me. I know one thing for certain, and that is that life and work has kicked in high gear once again. Am I right?
So why don’t I ask my audience a question that I probably should ask more often but haven’t.
What paranormal events are going on in your life?
Did Uncle Frank visit last week? Did you astral travel to the Bahamas in your sleep last night? Have you experienced any impressive intuitive moments lately? Please share in the comments section… or on this post from the social media of your choice!
I’ll go first.
The next episode of The Big Séance Podcast will likely cover my Third Annual Thanksgiving Ouija Séance that I held last week, once again, with my mother. I can’t confirm that this will be the content of next week, but it just might be. (Check out last year’s Thanksgiving Ouija Séance.)
And here’s one more.
This one requires a **SPOILER ALERT** if you haven’t seen the film Interstellar yet and you still plan to. We went to see this movie with our neighbors. I wasn’t super excited about seeing it, but smiled and tagged along anyway. I assumed it was just another “space movie”. Boy was I wrong! I won’t go into a bunch of detail, because it would require me to pull up about 3 Wikipedia articles to explain it all, but just know that you quantum physics nerds will be in HEAVEN when you see it. It’s very paranormal, or perhaps simply futuristic, but some claim it’s very close to being scientifically accurate! Though I don’t always possess the vocabulary to explain it well, I was so very proud of myself for predicting a few powerful twists and turns in the film that I don’t think the average person did. This is all due to surrounding myself in a constant sea of paranormal. I felt so smart! It was a fantastic and mind-blowing movie! (It is very long though, so plan on a mid-movie potty break.)
But simply seeing the movie is not why I’m mentioning it. After seeing the movie, I immediately remembered a strange experience that happened to me earlier that morning while waking up. It happened twice, and again, this is before I saw the movie. A female voice woke me from my slumber by sternly saying “Patrick!” I immediately woke up and was alert each time. I didn’t recognize the voice, and I told myself I’d remember… but I drifted back to sleep for a bit and forgot.
After the movie, I had a very strong feeling that the voice from earlier in the day was connected with seeing the film. I can’t explain it well, and I really don’t want to give it away (even with the spoiler alert), but I just know the voice and the experience of seeing Interstellar is connected. I can’t answer why or who, but I’ll keep you posted if more comes to me.
You may be familiar with my Annual Thanksgiving Ouija sessions. This year Karen A. Dahlman encouraged me to have one on Halloween, and so I did. I decided to call this one a Ouija Séance, because well… it sounds cooler.
My planchette partner was my mother. I was so very lucky to have them visiting us over the Halloween weekend. It was really nice, and I wish we could have extended it for several more days.
In this post, I will share with you a brief report along with some audio artifacts from the séance.
But first… Trick-or-Treaters…
It was such an unseasonably windy and cold night for trick-or-treating, but along with the neighbors, we did our usual “schtick” out on the front sidewalk. I was sure that we’d have a much bigger turnout this year with it being Friday and all, but I think the cold kept many of the kiddies in… or it at least kept them from being out too late, unless your costume involved a winter coat, ski mask, and gloves. But my hot apple cider was a bigger hit than ever. I always offer it to the “big people” who accompany most of the little costumed goblins. (I even had one family show up and say “We remember your hot apple cider from last year! We were hoping you’d be out here again!”) Thanks to the neighbors’ fire pit, we managed to stay warm and enjoy ourselves for most of the evening!
Oh yeah… and my Halloween window dressings were a big hit this year too! I think we’ll use them again next year!
I was very tired from an incredibly crazy week and busy night, and my mom was tired from being on the road, but once we were sure the trick-or-treaters had given up, and after we had the chance to watch the original 1978 version of Halloween, we began our séance shortly after midnight.
The Ouija Séance… just call me the Spirit Rapper Whisperer…
Our séance began after the rest of the house was asleep and bundled in their beds upstairs. All the candles on the Halloween Altar were lit, and we sat with the board, which was surrounded by many of the vintage Halloween cards and photos. I recorded our session with a digital audio recorder, and was also prepared with the spirit box that I got from Stephen Hill.
We opened the séance by clearly stating our intentions and having a moment of silence for prayer/meditation. We discovered fairly quickly that we’d have to cut the silence short to keep from falling asleep. (Seriously… I was nodding off.)
Within the first 5 minutes, we were hearing many knocks and pops. I acknowledged that the water line to the fridge (for the ice maker) was making a few noises, and it was clearly our first really cold and windy night of the year. But the heat was not on, and other than it being Halloween and having two extra guests in the house, nothing else was out of the ordinary in our immediate surroundings. I have never before noticed or heard so many loud knocks and pops in the lower level of our home in such a short time. I really want to be able to explain them, but the curious timing of the knocks (almost every one happened after a question, as if in response) combined with how loud they were, makes them really hard to ignore. I don’t know why I always seem to be the Spirit Rapping Whisperer, but I’ll let you be the judge on what exactly this is.
A few audio artifacts of the knocking/rapping:
4 minutes and 24 seconds into the séance
11 minutes into the séance
13 minutes and 5 seconds into the séance
Then we turned on the Spirit Box
I don’t know that I can make a guess as to what any of these possible messages say. All I know is that I don’t typically flag too many interesting spirit box artifacts, especially those recorded in my own home. Most of the voices in the audio artifacts below seem to be the same voice that crosses over several to many frequencies or stations. That makes it significant in my book. I was sweeping the AM frequencies.
A few Spirit Box audio artifacts:
17 minutes and 55 seconds into the séance Original Audio with no enhancements Slowed down
19 minutes and 3 seconds into the séance Original Audio with no enhancements Noise removal and amplification
20 minutes and 27 seconds into the séance
I had just asked, “What is today?” Original Audio with no enhancements Noise removal and amplification Noise removal, amplification, and slowed down
20 minutes and 49 seconds into the séance
I had just asked, “Do I know you?” Original Audio with no enhancements Noise removal and amplification
21 minutes and 43 seconds into the séance
I had just asked, “What am I touching right now?” (Hands were on the planchette/Ouija board.) Original Audio with no enhancements Noise removal and amplification Noise removal, amplification, and slowed down
One other interesting detail is that at 20 minutes and 27 seconds into the séance, the little skeleton man that was sitting up in the center of the buffet/Halloween Altar, fell over. I was sitting in a chair directly in front of him with my back facing him. My mom watched it fall. Paranormal? I’m not sure. It was probably a couple of inches away from the back of my chair, but I wasn’t doing much moving around.
When we stopped after 28 minutes, it was because I was falling asleep. Once again, I must point out that we experienced no movement or activity coming directly from the Ouija board. This has been the case for every Ouija session I’ve had in the last three years or so.
Did you find this post interesting? You may want to check out some of my other Ouija posts.
Yesterday I carved my jack-o-lantern for 2014. As usual, I decided to go with a classic look that is very close to last year’s grin. And yes, that’s the Halloween Altar in the background, with the addition of the Beistle reprints that I ordered this year. As usual, I always have difficulty choosing which photos to share with you, so you’re getting several.
It has been so warm for October lately, and our 80 degree days will kill a jack-o-lantern in no time. I’ve decided that for the next few days we’re bringing them in late at night when we blow them out. That way they’ll be much more comfortable inside and away from the sun and heat during the day.
As you may know, Joe always has to break the mold with his jack-o-lanterns. Here is this year’s polka-dotted disco ball jack-o-lantern! We like the reflections on the post.
Another look at the Halloween Altar.
This evening I took a trip to the cemetery to pay my adopted souls a visit for my 2014 grave adoption project. I discovered so many beautiful trees that weren’t in this condition on my last visit. It cooled down quite a bit by the time I got there, and so it was beautiful weather. It’s still weird to be wearing gym shorts and a t-shirt in a cemetery on the week of Halloween.
One of my grave adoptions for the year. The small pumpkin is still going strong from 3 weeks ago. All of my small pumpkins that I kept in the comfort of my home rotted long ago, so I’m pretty impressed.
After reading Diane C. Arkins’ Halloween Merrymaking: An Illustrated Celebration of Fun, Food, and Frolics from Halloweens Past, I absolutely knew I wanted to reach out to her. I wanted to hear about her collections, but also wanted to let her know just how inspired I was, as a fellow super fan of Halloween. For years, Diane’s articles have appeared in newspapers and magazines, such as USA Today, Chicago Sun-Times, Country Living, Better Homes & Gardens, Seventeen, and Woman’s Day, to name a few. Her article, “The Trick or Treat Trails”, just appeared in the Sept/Oct issue of Good Old Days magazine. (Diane’s complete bio can be found at the end of the interview.)
From the preface of Halloween Merrymaking, you’ll find that it’s “a book that will acquaint you with how Halloween was celebrated in America from its early popular incarnations in the 1870s to the early 1930s, the latter decades in particular a period that many consider to be the holiday’s ‘Golden Age.'” If you know me, you know that simply mentioning that time period is enough to get me hooked. But the highlight of the book is the number of vintage photos of celebrations, decorations, postcards, and even complete articles from the earliest magazines to print information on the topic! Much of it is like a how-t0 for throwing a historically accurate “Golden Age” Halloween party. And all of this comes from the author’s amazing collection!
Fortunately for us, Ms. Arkins agreed to an interview for the blog, and I am incredibly honored to be able to share her beautiful and heartfelt responses. Thank you, Diane!
My Interview with Diane C. Arkins
What were your favorite costumes from childhood?
I grew up in the late 1950s/early 1960s, an era when observances of Halloween were merrily gear toward childrens’ amusements. When I was young I was always intrigued by the imagery and forms around me, and the place that captured my interest the most was the Ben Franklin 5-and-10-cent store. The place was always chock-a-block with anything that anyone would want but until I was around 8 or 9 years old, Ben Franklin at Halloween time was THE place I wanted to be: there was Brach’s mellowcreme candies shaped like jack-o’lanterns (hereafter referred to as JOLs), cats, grinning moons, tiny owls, maple-flavored little cider jugs and the like that were as fun to play with as they were to eventually eat. I was captivated by the little wax JOLs and Halloween cat figures made by Gurley Novelty Company – each wax novelty contained a yummy piece of striped orange-and-black hard candy.
There were irresistible tiny cardboard sets of grease paint that could turn trick-or-treaters to clowns, princesses or pirates and an abundance of eye-catching decorations – like the rolls of black cat and witch face rolls of crepe paper and die-cut wall decorations of owls, cats, witches, haunted houses that I purchased,all by myself with funds from the Brownie troop to decorate the group’s Halloween bash… and, of course, the boxed costumes branded as Collegetown and Ben Cooper. The store-bought outfits had a cheesy and flimsy feel to them but they were “must-have” attire regardless. Some years back my EBAY collecting led me to a mint-in-box glitter-adorned Ben Cooper brand BLUE FAIRY identical to the one I wore in the photo in the TRICK-OR-TREAT TRAILS story photo. Back in 1960 I was devastated when I lost the magic wand on the way back home from Kindergarten show-and-wear but I now enjoy it when the complete boxed set is displayed in one area of my year-round Halloween collection.
Some of the Halloween “outfits” – so referred-to as they weren’t always costumes per se – that I recall best were the ones devised by my non-sewing mother and memorialized in the brilliant hues of Kodak 35mm slide film. I thoroughly cherish those pictures! One early year Mom dressed us up in crisp white blouses and orange crepe skirts adorned with (so classic!) die-cut cardboard Halloween motif decorations – interestingly this style of Halloween attire is in the style of similar vintage early 20th century home-made party attire where abundant home seamstresses crafted simple frocks in orange, black and/or orange-&-black patterned fabric and adorned them with Halloween icons in either fabric or cardboard form.
Aside from the visual thrills to be found at the dime store I just adored being out amongst the virtual pumpkin patch filled with lit JOLs set up throughout the neighborhood at night for trick-or-treating (for some reason unknown to me we went out on October 30th which they called “Beggar’s Night”… maybe I should GOOGLE the term?). A thick blanket of crackling dry leaves covering my Mary Janes (shoes) and an intoxicating aroma of burning leaves permeating the air added to the mysterious ambiance. It is no exaggeration to describe the scene as utterly magical… some special fairyland real-life moments that could overtrump saccharine visions of Disneyland in a snap. Even as a young child I was especially attracted to the feel and mood of Halloween.
Interestingly my research into early 20th century merrymaking has shown me how the boomer-era kids’ birthday parties I attended as a child seem to have been almost exactly mimic the patterns set out by those early magazine mavens such as The Modern Priscilla, The Woman’s Home Companion and the like: a festive overall setting with plenty of decorations; a crepe (or later tissue) paper tablecloth with tiny crepe paper nut cups (de rigueur in 1910 I personally never liked that omnipresent offering of salted peanuts and pillow mints – yuk!) and paper or cardboard hats; a meal with cake; party games with prizes! and parting souvenirs. Naturally the one Halloween-themed kiddy party I attended back in 1962 – complete with its quintessential feather-tipped blow-out noisemakers – was my favorite.
Your book includes such a wealth of photos and vintage items. I could spend all day just looking at every detail of the photos. Are these from your own collection? How did you find them?
I do enjoy my collection of vintage Halloween treasures by handling them and losing myself in their charms when I appreciate them.
Luckily for those lovers of Halloween memorabilia like myself, writing a book serves as a great excuse to add to and/or splurge on vintage treasures for one’s personal collection. With the rare exception of a photo or two I shot at the home of a fellow collector, all of the vintage treasures – from paper ephemera to 19th-century magazines – depicted in Hal Merrymaking come from my personal collection.
I began collecting illustrated Halloween postcards dating from that items’ “Golden Age” (approx. 1907-1918) during the mid-1980s after I happened upon a few buying leads in magazines for collectors. (Artistically drawn postcards for any occasion imaginable flooded the mails over the first two decades of the 1900s. Many of the cards were exquisitely printed in Germany and boasted deeply-embossed details that added to their charms. The cards remain highly collectible with today’s collectors and I’ve used holdings to illustrate the other books I published with Pelican: Halloween: Romantic Art and Customs of Yesteryear and The Glorious Fourth of July: Old-Fashioned Treats and Treasures From America’s Patriotic Past.
Before the advent of internet buying and selling I added to my collection of vintage holiday postcards via mail auctions (run through postcard collecting magazines) and browsing for hours at postcard shows (these are still held around the country throughout the year). In later years I acquired a few vintage Halloween treasures from (again) mail-order purchases (often run in publications like The Antique Trader) and a few well-publicized auctions of collections being disbanding.
Regrettably the area I live in wasn’t awash with antique stores and I missed out on the likely relative bargains that vintage Halloween fans could happen upon when antiquing in the 1980s and early 1990s. Once the internet entered the scene, both sellers and potential increasingly flocked to online sites – most popularly EBAY – and soon it became a snap to acquire heart’s desires limited only by one’s pocketbook. I confess that I DO NOT have a Donald Trump-like bank account by any stretch of the imagination but I have, over many years, been able to build a collection of Halloween and other vintage treasures that I thoroughly enjoy.
Knowing what you know about the history of decorating and entertaining for Halloween, what is the holiday like in your own home?
Like other collectors of vintage Halloween treasures I actually display many items in my home on a year-round basis. My husband is quite the self-taught wood worker and he has built several wall cabinets and a handsome glass-topped display coffee table for me to display paper items. I have a good-sized floor cabinet to house larger, more dimensional items and one bedroom wall is filled with framed tear-outs of pages of eye-catching Halloween paper dolls (delightful!) and magazine covers. To me, vintage Halloween artwork doesn’t get any better than the dust-cover illustration (from the Oct 1931 issue of Holland’s magazine) on Merrymaking.
Seasonally I usually like to have pumpkins, pumpkins and pumpkins of all sizes, shapes and colors around the house. The more unusual pumpkins I’ve been traveling to buy since 2001 come in the most intriguing colors: the deep red-orange of the rouge d’etampes, or “Cinderella” pumpkin; the pale orange Long Island Cheese; the “blue” (pastel gray if you ask me) Jarrahdale; the deep orange-vein patterned on cream of “One Too Much” and so much more. I usuallyattempt to grow my own “batwing” mini pumpkins (ones with “dripping” deep green accents that mimic bat wings) in my garden but this year’s crop was a flop!
I also like to use mini pumpkins and/or colorful gourds to craft “pumpkin people,” “gourd gremlins” or “veggie people” (as they are most popularly known). My inspiration when I first started making these little charmers was the “pumpkin people” who starred in many of my favorite vintage Halloween postcards (see page 52 of Hal Merrymaking for an example). So fun!
Inside I would display more of my cardboard die-cut decorations in windows, on walls, clipped to draperies or perhaps attached to some wire-and-twine faux spider webs I got at KMart. Although I belong to the group of collectors who consider damage to be acceptable when acquiring vintage pieces (to me they show “character” or the “battle scars” incurred in decorating duty over the decades) you wouldn’t want to do any more damage yourself! The very old German pieces are really beautifully-crafted of VERY heavy pressed die-cut cardboard that gives them amazing texture and depth… they are truly works of art. The little photo of a German die-cut that appears on page 25 of Merrymaking was an especially large one that measured probably approx. 14″x14″. Most pieces are far smaller, i.e. a jack-o-‘lantern (or JOL) face that measures around 6″ across.
Each season I usually send copies or reproductions of vintage Halloween postcards (a companion tear-off postcard book to my first Halloween book is just one source for such cards) or standard Halloween greeting cards… and I often like to make very special little treat bags, or “veggie people,” to give to people who’ve been especially kind to me during the year. My oversized frosted JOL face cookies are truly scrumptious but the problem is that they are SO GOOD that they all disappear before the mixing dishes make it out of the dishwasher!
What kinds of things would we be surprised to find haven’t changed since the Golden Age of Halloween?
I would venture that is was during the first decade of the 1900s that women’s magazines became to more regularly devoted counseling their readers with regard to home entertaining. This was a time when a page or two began to be devoted to true soups-to-nuts party planning: invitations, decor (both home-made or more increasingly store-bought), menus and recipes, costuming (applicable back then to more than Halloween attire), party games, favors and party gifts. I can name some names of women who were the “Martha Stewarts” of their times… indeed they probably invented the genre of party maven!?
Nothing has changed in essence that people still want to entertain their family and friends, they want to do it well and they are always looking for some inspiration – whether its cutting-edge new or dependably old stand-by – to guide them. As always, the differences are in the details.
One “detail” that remains as true in 2014 as it was back in 1914, for example, is that people like cupcakes. The problem in putting up the 1906 illustration of cupcakes on Pinterest today might lie with the fact that a lot of folks online now tend to make uninformed, thoughtless snap judgments on things and they would fail to understand or appreciate the history or importance of the old illustration… instead of thinking “wow… that was how thinks used to be” and consequently “that was how WE got from THERE to the-more-improved-NOW,” they would simply dismiss the picture by saying “LOL – it isn’t that picture (stupid)(lame)(name your own insult).”
Reminder that the merrymaking we enjoy TODAY came from the often rudimentary ideas developed in the past.
Your book made me want to pick a year, and plan a historically accurate Halloween party, using your book as a template! Have you done this? Have you heard of people trying this?
I can’t say that I hosted any Halloween events based upon my books (sadly I am woefully short of people who might attend and/or actually appreciate such efforts) nor have I been aware of anyone who’ve hosted their own vintage-style bashes. I have, however, imagined how wonderfully such an event must have been for partygoers “back in the day” and have also imagined how an all-stops-pulled-out party could be set up at the handsome old Victorian mansion-turned-special-events-restaurant where we enjoy our Thanksgiving dinners. The place is spectacular and I usually request a table located in the front turret so things seem both elegant and “just like being at Grandma’s house.” We’ve been going there for many years now and I CAN imagine PRECISELY how everything could be made up to be absolutely breathtaking!
How would you compare the Halloween entertaining articles from around the turn of the century to the articles I see in line at the grocery store today?
Well to my mind the vintage periodicals win any comparison on just about every point (and mind you: I hate to bash modern print media in just about any way, shape and form. I truly mourn the loss of just about anything from The Ladies’ Home Journal and McCalls to the not-quite-daily mail-delivered Christian Science Monitor) but today’s magazines seem to have an edge over vintage ones only when it comes to color illustrations.
The early 20th century magazines gave us those fabulous original guidelines for celebrating our holidays with panache. They educated us, often for the first time, on many of the old customs that led us to understand why we celebrated at all! And they did it so elegantly. Compare this 1910 quote from The Housekeeper magazine that appeared in Merrymaking –
“October, the golden month, when Nature having reaped a wonder harvest of beauty, wastes it like a spendthrift for our joy! What hostess can fail of success in entertaining this month when there are autumn leaves, flowers, ‘golden glorious,’ and vines flushing with crimson, to bedeck the table?”
– to, well, again anything?
Today’s magazines are comparatively much smaller than most vintage periodicals. During Halloween’s “Golden Era,” the many, many more magazines for the lady of the home measured in at a jumbo 14″x17″. This oversized format allows for far space to be devoted to editorial content… resulting in longer, more detailed information being presented in more beautifully-worded prose. The paucity of real photographs also allowed to more words to be presented instead.
For its part Martha Stewart Living, for example,does have an edge over most monthly magazines in the holiday decorating score but it seems that her Halloween focus of late has honed in on dark silhouettes of ravens, decorative (empty) bottles of POISON or WITCH’s POTION, haggly old witches (NOTE: at least 50% of early 20th century “witches” were depicted as beauties on postcards) and the like. So she does a great job when it comes to inventiveness… she simply represents a different style to what I prefer.
For me suggestions for making “mummy hot dogs” out of crescent rolls and red hots pale against vintage inspiration for using hollowed-out squashes to serve condiments. And this year one highly-regarded magazine presented decorative pumpkins wrapped in rubber bands (huh?) or duct tape images that look to be designed by a 2-year-old. Clever, eh? Can’t wait to adorn my pumpkins with rubber bands.What were they thinking?
In my book, vintage wins just about every time.
Can you talk a little about Dennison’s Bogie Book and what that is?
The highly-collectable and much coveted Bogie Books were a series of party-giving guidebooks that were produced by The Dennison Manufacturing Company of Framingham, Mass. to promote their Halloween paper goods. Named “Bogie Book” after the mythical mischievous little goblins that were said to roam on Halloween, the typical approx. 5″x8″ booklet might give directions on how to conduct a party; craft a simple party favor; decorate a witch’s den suitable for fortune-telling; play party games; create a crepe paper costume; or even decorate larger venues for group celebrations. The booklets also featured pictures of Dennison’s delightful party merchandise (paper napkins, beautifully-illustrated panels of printed colored crepe paper, placecards, boxed decorative seals and more). Illustrations, either real photography or artist’s renditions, appeared in ordinary black-&-white printing but the images were captivating nonetheless. Party planners could purchase the guides either by mail-order or at one of the company’s stand-alone stores in major cities like Chicago. They were modestly priced at 5 to 10 cents.
An initial impossible-to-find booklet produced in 1909 was followed by a series of Bogie Books beginning in 1912 and continuing for most years through 1926. Dennison also produced similar typically 30-to-36-page holiday guidebooks such as The Christmas Book, The Gala (or Party Book) for Feb-July celebrations and a single 1918 Patriotic Book. A variety of other larger-format Halloween booklets began in 1927 and continued until 1935. In addition, Dennison produced a wide assortment of other self-promotional how-to booklets primarily centered on making things out of the firm’s luxe line of colorful crepe paper.
Though reigning as undisputed king of how-to booklets during Halloween’s “Golden Age” the Bogie Books were not the only well-executed pamphlets around. Other notable illustrated little guides were issued by food firms (like JELL-O and Staley) and competing crepe paper maker American Tissue Mills. Respected Halloween decoration maker The Beistle Company of Shippensburg, PA issued The Children’s Hallowe’en Party Book (by Miss Polka Dot). This last item is a slim 12″x7″ volume consisting of an 8-page story (printed in either tissue-weight orange or ordinary white paper) and several pages of tear-out party accouterments like placecards, candle shades, invitations. This dandy early 20th century booklet can command a pretty penny IF its party pieces pages remain uncut within.
Intact copies of rarer Bogie Books (those in the 1910s) can bring hundreds of dollars depending condition, condition, condition.
I wish I could go back in time and interview my Great Grandmother and talk to her about her Halloween memories and experiences growing up in that “Golden Age” of Halloween. She was such a fun woman. Has any of your research come from interviewing folks who were around in this time period?
During the time that I began to collect vintage Halloween memorabilia and write about old-fashioned Halloween customs I’ve never been acquainted with any folks who themselves experienced the holiday’s “Golden Era.” I do, however, love to completely immerse myself in old magazine and newspaper accounts of Halloween entertaining. Entertaining back then must have been so much more exciting than anything in the 21st century. After all folks today sit at tables filled with people and still ignore those gathered to devote their (overly ample free time) to tiny electronic devices.
Back “then” folks reveled in the opportunity to spend their seriously limited free time to interact with people who you might not see again for some time to come.
Is there one single vintage item or article that you’ve discovered that stands out as your favorite?
In many ways it “doesn’t take much to get me enthused.” I was delighted to acquire for my collection some of the little wax pumpkins (the ones filled a few pieces of orange-&-black candies) that so fascinated me at the five-and-dime store when I was little – for some reason they still so strongly resonate for me with personal happy Halloween memories.
The other notable item is a small (8″ long) string of decorative ca 1920s/30s embossed German-made Halloween children party-goer scrap pictures (they appear on page 105 of Hal Merrymaking). Each of the little children stand only 2″ high but their detailing is so superlative that completely embody the spirit of old-fashioned Halloween. I was delighted beyond compare when a former co-worker (who passed away many years now) gifted me this tiny bit of paper. I do cherish the pictures so. Thanks, Jeanie, for your thoughtfulness… you are missed.
What is your favorite iconic Halloween symbol
A merrily-carved jack-o’-lantern of course! He’s always up for a good old-fashioned Halloween time.
Diane C. Arkins began her career as a freelance writer at the age of nineteen by publishing feature articles in Seventeen, Co-Ed, and Woman’s Day magazines. In 1984, her work began to appear in the Chicago Sun-Times. After earning a BS in journalism from Northern Illinois University, she continued her writing endeavors by publishing magazine and newspaper stories while employed full time at the offices of the Australian Consulate-General in Chicago.
Arkins’ “Home Truths” humor column appeared in the Homelife real estate section of the Chicago Sun-Times from 1988 through 2000. Her work has appeared on the Op-Ed pages of numerous major daily newspapers, including a stint as a regular contributor to USA Today. Arkins has written for Country Living, Victoria, Family Circle, Brides, Country Collectibles, Country Home, Better Homes & Gardens, Woman’s World, Antiques & Collecting Magazine, and a wide variety of other publications.
Arkins has a passion for animals, gardening, and collecting vintage images, early illustrated postcards, and holiday memorabilia.
Muddle blackberries in a shaker. Add Absolut Wild tea, simple syrup and lime juice. Fill with ice cubes. Shake and strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Garnish with a blackberry and let the spirits flow.
Both the guest blog post below and the delicious Mystery Martini above are by my new friend, Lisa Lloyd. She has a fascinating story and a very interesting blog. You should check it out! Thanks, Lisa!
Mysteries over Martinis: Spellbinding Spirits Served with a Twist
My name is Lisa Lloyd. I write a blog called Mysteries over Martinis in which I combine my passion for storytelling with my allure for unexplained phenomena and serve it up with a mystery-themed cocktail. It’s a recipe for intrigue!
I was born and raised in Iowa City, IA. My fascination with mysteries began at an early age. My favorite past times were telling stories, playing Clue, searching corn fields for crop circles and helping Scooby Doo and the gang solve mysteries. The introduction of the television show Unsolved Mysteries opened my eyes to a variety of unusual phenomena. The bizarre cases intrigued me and fueled my curiosity to make sense of it all.I often tried to seek out books, programs and anyone who could offer insight into possible explanations.
The passing of several family members peaked my interest in life after death. This prompted me to experiment with the Ouija board as a young adult. One particular occasion seemed to indicate that I was communicating with several of my deceased family members. My mother is the youngest of 14 kids so my extended family is enormous but also very close. My mother, aunt, two cousins and I took a girls trip to Lake Okoboji where my cousin had a cabin. After a day on the lake, we returned to the cabin for a few cocktails. My cousin brought out her Ouija board and we thought it would be something fun to do. We went into it thinking it would be entertaining and probably not much more.
We began with a prayer to protect ourselves from any negative entities. My cousin and I had our hands on the planchette and asked if a spirit wished to communicate.At first the planchette moved slowly and didn’t make much sense but then it began to move more fluidly. A spirit claiming to be our grandmother began communicating with us. She had died in 1968, long before my cousins and I were born. She said she was, “proud of her babies” which would have been directed at my mom and aunt. She went on to give us her birth date and date of death. This was interesting because my cousin and I didn’t have that information other than perhaps the years in which those events occurred. She then told us our aunt wanted to step forward. After our grandmother said goodbye, the energy of the planchette changed which surprised us. It became sharper and the spelling wasn’t as good as it had been with our grandmother. Our aunt was sarcastic much like she was in life. To try and validate that we were speaking with spirit, my mother asked her where their aunt’s quilt was located. My mom knew the answer but the rest of us did not. The board revealed that it was in a special box under her bed. My mom confirmed this to be true. She then revealed that my cousin, who was pregnant at the time and living in Wisconsin, would move back to Iowa because her husband would have a “water opportunity.” She then said her baby would be a boy and the next baby would be born in Iowa. All of this came to fruition. She even chimed in saying, “Lisa knows more than most, strong ties to the paranormal.” It seems this was some foreshadowing of where my path would take me. We ended up speaking with 4 departed loved ones during that session, each one demonstrating a different kind of movement with the planchette. The information was incredible and the experience left me with more questions than answers.
In 2006, a sudden illness landed me in the intensive care unit. My fight for life resulted in what I can only explain as a near-death experience. At the time, my condition baffled the medical staff.My organs had begun to shut down and I was in excruciating pain. I was struggling to breathe because my lungs were filling with fluid. Suddenly, everything went dark. I thought the doctor’s had sedated me but I discovered later, this was not the case. The darkness quickly transitioned into a beautiful golden light. Being engulfed by the radiance was the most euphoric moment of my life. Within a matter of seconds, I was physically pulled away. I was back in the hospital bed enduring horrific pain and watching the medical team frantically work on my body. Soon after I was stabilized, everyone left the room. I was lying in bed and as I scanned the room, I noticed a familiar shadow being cast on the wall. It was the profile of my aunt who had passed away years before. This was the same aunt who said I had strong ties to the paranormal. When I did a double take, the shadow was gone. I felt this was her way of letting me know she was watching over me. This event thrust me into a world of strange phenomena and made me a magnet for those who are a part of it.I never advertised my beliefs in the paranormal but I also never denied them. I think of myself as pretty easy to get along with. I believe that my open mind and friendly disposition have made me somewhat of a paranormal therapist. I attract people who want to tell me about their encounters or who want to learn more about specific topics. I found myself almost counseling friends and family by trying to help them make sense of their experiences. Even those who don’t believe in the supernatural would ask me to recount stories just because they found them interesting. Many of which would say that the way I presented the information at least made them think. I found these instances incredibly gratifying.
Having my own near death experience, encounters with spirit communication along with a wealth of other strange occurrences has escalated what was a simple interest in the unexplained into a personal quest for purpose. I moved away from my hometown in December of 2013. I created Mysteries over Martinis as a way to stay connected with those who utilize me as a resource. Not only do I want to help but I want to educate and provide a platform in which people can share their own brushes with the bizarre. My blog can be found atwww.mysteriesovermartinis.com. If you’ve had a mysterious encounter you’d like to share, please e-mail me email@example.com. I can also be contacted via the Mysteries over Martinis Facebook page. Be sure to ‘like’ it when you stop by. Weirdness is always welcome. Cheers!